What is an ADU?
What is an ADU, you might ask? Well, ADU stands for Accessory Dwelling Unit, which means another building for someone to live in, on your property. Planning departments do not like the term “Tiny Home”, as they often have wheels. They like foundations. So, we use the term ADU which is built to code when talking w/ planning departments.
Speaking of planning departments, there are some interesting changes afoot in the Santa Cruz area, according to the Santa Cruz Sentinel. Recently there were 70 people in attendance at a meeting of the city planning department, with people willing to stand in order to listen and submit comments. Long story short, the housing shortage is hitting hard there as the university continues to want to expand, even though the city does not have sufficient housing for the current student population. Changes are being made in order to accommodate the shortage, including proposals to allow eliminating the parking requirement for the first granny flat addition to a parcel, allowing short term rentals, and removing owner occupancy requirements in exchange for affordability restrictions. This surprised me as I had been told that the occupancy requirement to rent a second unit was statewide, however I am sure they know what they are doing if this can be adapted to meet local needs. Also proposed is allowing two ADUs on a larger property, which is a big change, as in the past a homeowner was required to pour cement down his plumbing for an illegal second unit on his property in Santa Cruz, with the planning department official there to watch.
These & other recommended changes to city laws were scheduled to go before the next city planning commission meeting and the next city council meeting. Other proposed changes included eliminating public hearing requirements, allowing granny flats in all residential areas & removing minimum parcel size rules. Santa Cruz County is considering a pilot program to offer incentives for small ADU’s that would waive a majority of permitting and other fees, adding up to an average savings of $11,000. Isn’t that nice! The supervisors also mandated, as of June 2018, that properties with ADU's built without permits before Jan 1, 2014 can be inspected for safety and put at the bottom of the list for review, which means it isn't worth it to chase them down if there are no complaints from neighbors. A major concern of course is blackwater disposal and maintaining the purity of local streams.
It is interesting that these changes are fueled not only by the housing shortage which is widespread but also the level of participation in the process of seeking code changes and updates to meet the current housing situation. Other counties do not seem to be fueled by the same level of public participation and seem to be updating their codes to a lesser degree. Some areas are stretching to meet the states changes mandated Jan. 1, 2018 to decrease the required property size to allow more second units on more properties. Los Altos, I was told by a builder for example, will allow a second unit but it must be the same architectural style as the primary house, which makes using factory made housing units difficult. In contrast, Santa Cruz County and San Mateo County both have less stringent rules regarding what can be approved for a second unit, and both will allow for manufactured homes, modular homes or container homes, which can actually be quite nice and are built to the same building code as stick-built houses.